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High Density Planning To Save Energy
May 14th, 2006

“The long-term solution [to high energy costs] in this country, which nobody wants to hear, is to use an awful lot less energy and to get away from fossil fuels,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in his weekly radio adress on WABC-AM.

Bloomberg’s energy task force last published a report in January 2004 (pdf format).

Blogger Aaron Donovan, contributing to NYC Oil Drum, suggests that the mayor encourage high-density development as a means of increasing the city’s energy efficiency.

The notion was also supported by the city’s Office of Environmental Coordination in a report (pdf format) issued this January. High density concentration, mixed with the city’s transportation system, “provide many advantages in terms of New Yorks energy use,” it said. But they also note that, “Although high-density urban living often allows residents of cities to consume less energy on a per capita basis, it is important to recognize that urbanization plays a key role in stimulating aggregate energy consumption.”

Frank Braconi, formerly the executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Center and now the mayor’s chief economic advisor, recently called on the city to develop at higher densities to handle the forecasted population growth.

One reader on Oil Drum calls the mayor’s planning “piece meal”, and points to London’s Spatial Development Strategy, which we wrote about here, suggesting it as a model for New York City. The London Plan “articulates a coherent, long-term vision that says where development should occur, and what it should look like.”

In his 2006 State of the City address , Bloomberg announced a five-borough Strategic Land Use plan, which will coordinate housing, transportation, energy, and infrastructure planning. It was scheduled for release in April, but has yet to be published.

By on May 14, 2006, 11:43 pm
In category: Demographics,Environment,Housing,Land Use | 8 Comments »

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8 Responses to “High Density Planning To Save Energy”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    May 15th, 2006 at 8:23 am

    Higher density does save energy, but most of New York City already has it. That’s why New Yorkers live in a way that is less harmful to the environment than other Americans.

    The question is what can be done in those parts of the United States, the metropolitan area, and even the city that are built at lower densities. Because mass transit cannot be provided there at affordable subsidy levels, and increasing density may move an area into a range where both transit and the auto are unworkable.

    The only solution — lots of carpooling. We can start with NYC public employees, who work at dispersed locations, and thus often do not use transit, and get free parking on the street. By working together they could save a lot of money.

  2. Glenn Says:
    May 15th, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Higher density is much more efficient, in almost all ways, but development should not just be about density – it should also redefine what a good place to raise a family is. For the last 50 years the ideal has been that when you start a family you should move to the vastly energy inefficient (lots of driving, lots of sqft to heat/cool) suburbs.

    If the city can make itself an affordable and pleasant place to raise a family, it can retain people that enjoyed the city in their 20s as they reach their peak earning years 30-50 and prevent them from moving to higher energy consumption areas in the nearby suburbs.

  3. Nancy Anderson Says:
    May 18th, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    To borrow a phrase, “Green is the new black”. Even in NYC density alone is not enough to save energy at a scale that really matters. We must make green, high performance building New York’s “new normal”. The City took a step in this direction by passing a local law that requires City-funded buildings to meet green standards. But that law doesn’t cover housing or private commercial structures. And don’t forget about clean energy!

  4. Shino Tanikawa Says:
    May 24th, 2006 at 9:12 am

    Middle class families often leave the city for the suburbs in search of better schools. If we want to save our planet, we need to look at the problem in a holistic and comprehensive manner. We need to tackle the social issues as well as the environmental. How about affordable housing, high quality public schools with 17 kids per class, livable wages, entry level jobs, and fostering a sense of community?

  5. Larry Littlefield Says:
    May 24th, 2006 at 9:24 am

    (Middle class families often leave the city for the suburbs in search of better schools.)

    And they get better schools by having a choice of schools — they make that choice by buying their house. If there were a choice of schools within the city; if there were three competing public school systems plus vouchers/tax credits, as I’m suggested, and thus four competing schools your child had a right to attend, they wouldn’t leave.

    NYC has gotten by with the young, empty nesters, those who don’t care about their kid’s education, and those who pay for private or wheedle their way into a “special deal” school. Where a choice of schools would really help the environment, by stopping sprawl combined with land abandonment, is the Buffalos, Rochesters, and Syracuses of the U.S.

    Democrats take note: you cant’ complain about urban decline without addressing the most important reason the non-poor won’t live in them. And unlike NYC, Upstate urban school districts are massively over-funded, no under-funded, so money isn’t even part of the problem.

  6. Bonnie Lane Webber Says:
    May 24th, 2006 at 10:19 am

    High density planning is good for saving energy but an easy way to start cutting your energy use TODAY in NYC and all over the country is to change your incandescent light bulbs to compact flourescent bulbs. Learn how at the following website:
    Be sure to check the special sale at bottom of the page.

  7. Wendy Brawer Says:
    May 24th, 2006 at 2:16 pm

    It’s all about the choices we make everyday, as we dine, commute, work, play and travel, regardless of where we live. We are fortunate to have so many options in NYC, and to have so many agencies, NGOs and enterprises working on more.

    To involve individuals, we have recently published the 5th citywide Green Apple Map of NYC’s environment. It’s the first devoted to energy issues – climate change predictions and reasons we need to act now; easy things you can do everyday (from buying local food to biking to waste reduction to bulb changing); and investments in efficiency, green buildings, renewables, training programs, etc.

    You can download this free resource from Green – click “Powerful Green Map” on the homepage. Or send a SASE to
    Green Map, PO Box 249, NYC 10002 for one copy by mail – or contact us ( for lots of copies for your class, club, community or conference.

    Even if you don’t live in NYC, there may be a Green Map of your community’s resources for sustainable living. There are over 240 published to date, as seen at All are filled with great models to replicate, so if your community isn’t so green now, use the 70+ online Green Maps to seek out initiatives that can help your hometown become more vibrant and healthy. We offer Green Mapmaking resources to adults and youth, see more about this online, too.

  8. Rosaphilia Says:
    September 24th, 2006 at 1:57 pm

    the amount of solar energy lost on the roofs of nycha complexes is shameful.

    put solar panels up already and also alongside the sun-exposed areas of nycha buildings and as diagonal shades over people’s windows to catch sunlight and also to enable some cogenertion back to the utilities.

    ditto other municipal buildings like precincts, bureaucratic buildings and even city hall.

    and laso make better use of the strong currents in teh rivers flowing around and thru the city to generate power.


    we are soo way behind japan and europe in these regards.

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